Following a trail of notes asking for help has lead our three heroes to a small red planet where they have been unexpectedly shot dead.
The fifth part of the trilogy:
Skimming time like a stone on a pond
It's turned out weird again
Trail of Crumbs
An unfortunate bullet in the head
"You useless, slow witted, pompous, stupid Englishmen," the thin, ethereal, yet strangely resonant voice began, "Have you got you heads stuck up your respective bottoms?"
"I'm American. And a woman."
"THEN YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER." The voice cut her off dismissively.
"We're alive?!" I said, looking down at myself and feeling my head.
"Of course you're not alive, you bloody half-wit. You were shot in the head. Right through your brain. You are dead as a dodo."
"I'm alive. I was sure I was a gonna there," said Roth, now suddenly standing next to me.
"I'm not going through all this again, look over there." A single skeletal finger pointed from under his black cape to an untidy pile on the ground.
"I'm dead and that's my body over there?"
"There is some hope for you, the tall one who smells faintly of pepperoni catches on fast. Yes, you are all dead. Those are your bodies."
"Why is the outer casing of a ball point pen sticking out of the bullet hole in my head?" asked Roth.
This was quite a lot to take in. The three of us stood facing the black caped skeletal figure holding a scythe. He was deep in thought.
Eventually he spoke, "I expected one of you to get shot and killed, hence my warning on the bus where I told you one of you would not be returning. I didn't expect the other two to stand around in the open arguing until they got shot too."
He paused and thought some more, "Your mission is too important, you must go on and help the writer of the notes."
"You are here to reap our souls?" I asked.
"I am the Grim Reaper, the personification of Death. I live with three other guys who also like horses. Of course I'm here to collect your souls."
"But I didn't eat the salmon mousse," said Roth.
"I hear this three or four times a day since that sodding Monty Python sketch. It is wearing really thin." He pointed a bony finger at Roth, "I would suggest you shut up."
He thought some more. "I have three souls to collect. You need to continue with your mission. So I think I have a solution. Look over there."
In the distance our murderers had broken cover and were walking over to where we lay. Clearly they couldn't see us or the Slightly Peeved Reaper. There were three of them and they were dressed like scrawny versions of John Rambo. They suddenly froze in mid-step.
"I'm going to collect their souls, pop yours back in your bodies, and fudge the paperwork. If I switch the mental records I shouldn't get found out." As he spoke, six folders appeared on the ground, three really fat ones and three slim ones. He picked up the three slim folders and flicked through them, "Fairly straightforward murderers." He picked up the three thick folders and read through them, "Wow, you guys have mental problems I've never seen before. And the pages are all out of chronological order. I think some of the time stamps are wrong too. That page is marked with the date Atlantis sank."
Eolist coughed and Indigo Roth looked down and shuffled.
Death waved a bony hand, the folders switched contents and vanished. "Stay here and don't move."
He walked over to the three murderers. Our murderers. They unfroze and fell to the ground. From their bodies we could see their souls drift out and upwards. A slight wind blew our way so we could just catch the conversation.
"But I didn't eat the salmon mousse," protested the first murderer.
The Slightly Peeved Reaper swung his scythe and the three souls vanished.
He stomped back.
"Right you three, I don't do this very often, so hold on."
"Will it hurt?" Eolist asked.
"I don't believe I shall feel a thing. But you'll be in agony. For hours."
I woke up. It was dark, my mouth was full of dirt and the throbbing in my head was unspeakable. I realised after a few seconds I had fallen on my face and slowly lifted myself up. Eolist and Roth were sitting on the ground. Eolist was extracting a pen casing from the bullet hole in Roth's forehead.
Death spoke one more, "The next note is in that cave over there." He pointed a bony finger again. "I could die of boredom waiting for you to find it. I can't actually, that was just a figure of speech, but you know what I mean."
He added, "Please don't let me down. Or else."
What will our heroes find in the cave? What agency is powerful enough to have enlisted Death's help? Surely our heroes must be hungry again by now, so will they get to eat?